Lori Gottlieb — The Power of Getting to *Unknow* Yourself (#415)

Photo by Shlomit Levy Bard

“Insight is the booby prize of therapy.”

— Lori Gottlieb

Lori Gottlieb (@LoriGottlieb1) is a psychotherapist and author of the New York Times bestseller Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, which is being adapted as a television series by Eva Longoria and the creators of the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series The Americans. In addition to her clinical practice, she writes the Atlantic’s weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column and contributes regularly to the New York Times and many other publications.

Her recent TED Talk is one of the top 10 most-watched of the year, and she is a sought-after expert in media such as the Today show, Good Morning America, CBS’s Early Show, CNN’s Newsroom, and NPR’s Fresh Air. Her new iHeart podcast, Dear Therapists, produced by Katie Couric, will premiere this year.

Please enjoy!

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform. 

This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic and LinkedIn Jobs. More on both below. 

#415: Lori Gottlieb — The Power of Getting to *Unknow* Yourself

This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic and their delicious mushroom coffee featuring lion’s mane and chaga. It tastes like coffee, but there are only 40 milligrams of caffeine, so it has less than half of what you would find in a regular cup of coffee. I do not get any jitters, acid reflux, or any type of stomach burn. It’s organic and keto friendly, plus every single batch is third-party lab tested.

You can try it right now by going to FourSigmatic.com/Tim and using the code TIM. You will receive up to 25% off on the lion’s mane coffee bundle. Plus, you will receive an additional 20% off at checkout. Simply visit FourSigmatic.com/Tim. If you are in the experimental mindset, I do not think you’ll be disappointed. 

This episode is also brought to you by LinkedIn Jobs. Hiring can be hard, and it can be super expensive and painful if you get it wrong. Today, with more qualified candidates than ever—but also more noise than ever—employers need a hiring solution that helps them find the right people for their businesses. LinkedIn Jobs provides just that by screening candidates with the hard and soft skills you’re looking for so you can quickly find and hire the right person.

LinkedIn can make sure your job post gets in front of people you want to hire—people with the right skills and qualifications, as well as other insights that help LinkedIn paint a better picture of potential candidates. It’s no wonder great candidates are hired every eight seconds on LinkedIn. Find the right person meant for your business today with LinkedIn Jobs. You can pay what you want, and the first $50 is on LinkedIn. Just visit LinkedIn.com/Tim to get $50 off your first job post! Terms and conditions apply.

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear an episode with another fascinating therapist? — Listen to my first conversation with Esther Perel on this podcast in which we discuss polyamory, why happy people cheat, how to find (and convince) mentors who can change your life, what she learned from Holocaust survivors, and much more (stream below or right-click here to download):

#241: The Relationship Episode: Sex, Love, Polyamory, Marriage, and More (with Esther Perel)


  • Connect with Lori Gottlieb:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


  • What story did Lori share on stage with The Moth, and why did she choose this over any other story she could have told? [06:21]
  • What is the hierarchy of pain? [10:55]
  • The difference between idiot compassion and wise compassion, and why there’s a time and place for each. [13:46]
  • How to listen to someone’s story in a way that invites self-reflection. [17:23]
  • As we’re waiting out COVID-19 in isolation with our loved ones for potentially long periods of time, how can we better communicate — and avoid escalating conflict — with each other? [20:26]
  • As a term that can mean different things for different people, how does Lori define therapy, and what might be the benefits of learning how to “unknow” yourself? [22:42]
  • Lori relays a story of her own that vividly illustrates how we all orchestrate our lives to keep certain storylines going — even when they don’t really serve us — and explains why we do this to ourselves. [25:51]
  • What distinguishes a good therapist from a great therapist? [30:12]
  • A memorable time when Lori’s own great therapist improvised to great effect. [32:07]
  • One of Lori’s favorite maxims about her profession: “Insight is the booby prize of therapy.” What does it mean? [33:38]
  • How did Lori’s therapist’s improvisation lead to meaningful behavior modification that broke a self-perpetuated cycle of suffering? [35:43]
  • To Lori, what are the pros and cons of administering therapy in person versus writing advice to a general audience in her Dear Therapist column? Does she ever worry about the consequences of missing the mark or having someone misinterpret her advice? [38:41]
  • What approaches can someone take to better identify their own blind spots, and what advantage does a therapist have over even a well-meaning friend or family member in helping us find these blind spots? [47:15]
  • As someone who doesn’t know me very well, in what ways does Lori think we’re most alike and most different? [55:18]
  • What did Lori’s university-era struggles look like, and how did her educational focus change over this time? How does her work in journalism correlate with her work in psychology? [57:31]
  • When Lori looks back on her life’s chapter changes, which decisions or transitions were the hardest? Did she agonize for an extended time before initiating these changes, or were they quick in the making? [1:04:03]
  • Lori believes that acknowledging life’s hundred-percent mortality rate ultimately makes us happier. How did she come to this conclusion, and what perspectives has she developed as a result? [1:06:56]
  • How does Lori help people get past denial? [1:12:17]
  • What we’re doing to get through the challenging times ahead as society learns to cope with COVID-19. [1:16:24]
  • What book has Lori gifted the most? [1:22:44]
  • How did Lori decide to dedicate her energy to the two big projects going on in her life right now: a television series adapted from her most recent book and a podcast being produced by Katie Couric? [1:25:11]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:29:33]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

Leave a Reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

13 Replies to “Lori Gottlieb — The Power of Getting to *Unknow* Yourself (#415)”

  1. Mr. Ferriss. I’ve been listening to your podcast now for years, and it’s only now I feel compelled to leave a comment. You’ve made me choke on my own saliva in a sudden burst of laughter with your PH comment a few seconds in (abbreviated in order to avoid spoilers for others). You’ve made my day. Well played, sir.

  2. I do use Linkedin a lot and also appreciate that headhunters find me and contact me for some great positions and its upon me to chose. However, the “apply” function at linkedin does not seem to work. Never ever did I get any reply be it positive or negative from a linkedin job applications. first I thought I may not have been a fit so I tried a few times more but same no reply… then I read about similar experience of other people

  3. Enjoyed your interview with Lori Gottlieb. Just wondering what her credentials are as a psychotherapist. Does she have a Phd? I know she only spent a very short time at Stanford medical so I know she’s not an MD.

  4. Tim, first time, long time…

    I really enjoyed the part about getting the people around you to help identify personal blind spots. Lori points out that people around you may have a wide variety of agendas/intentions. I totally agree, but I feel her assertion that therapists are objective without an agenda is inaccurate. They have financial incentives to keep paying clients/patients. Just like the old Warren Buffet saying, don’t ask your barber if you need a haircut.

    I would love to hear thoughts on how to counterbalance this misalignment of incentives.

    Thank you for everything you do

  5. Thank’s a lot Tim for your show and your work,

    If you like “getting to unknow yourself” you might like to watch the new Ram Dass Movie “Becoming nobody”.

    Stay healthy and happy with unknowing yourself…

  6. Excellent ideation.

    It reminds me of a course I’m taking online called “How to Be Alive” with Tom Asacker.

    [Moderator: link removed.]

  7. Tim, I am new to your podcasts but have really enjoyed them since this Coronavirus lockdown. I’ve listened to Brené Brown, Ester Parel and now Lori Gottlieb. I especially appreciate the show notes for each show as I love the questions you ask. I particularly like the question to Lori of what transitions or decisions were the hardest, and what book have you gifted. Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Melanie — We have all transcripts published until episode #412. This interview is #415, and we will be adding the transcript in the upcoming days. Thank you for your patience. You can find all transcripts at tim.blog/transcripts 🙂

  8. What a rich and insightful conversation! Clear, concise and applicable wisdom. Much more helpful the past therapy sessions I’ve sat through….
    Thanks to both of you for sharing your knowledge!

  9. There is a lot of good insight in this interview. I’d be curious to hear more information on finding a therapist that is a good match for you. What questions should someone ask of the therapist? Does it matter who the therapist is, or is it only necessary to have a background in a relevant area? When should you decide to try a different therapist? These are some questions that I do not believe are squarely addressed but would be fascinating to know more about. We are all trying to develop relationships with people that will enable us to be our best selves. Why should a therapist be any different? Tim… I would love to hear an episode that focuses on this aspect of seeking 3rd party insight.

  10. Hi Tim. I have been listening to our show for a while. In the beginning, your Chinese “好久没有听到你的声音了” gave me chills. (突然被击中,绝绝子!) I felt you knew a secret Chinese fan exists. A shout-out to your Mandarin. I heard you loud and clear, and your greetings ran into my heart.

    Thank you